Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has purchased new SUVs – Toyota Land Cruisers – worth hundreds of millions of naira for the 16 elected members of the National Assembly from Rivers State.
This is despite the fact that retired civil servants in the state have not received their pensions and gratuities for more than three years now.
According to the governor, three of the vehicles are for senators representing the state, while 13 are for members of the House of Representatives from the state.
Members of the House of Representatives led by Leader, Rivers Caucus of the House of Representatives, Mrs Betty Apiafi, and the Deputy Leader of the Caucus, Bari Mpigi, took possession of their vehicles on Monday, in Port Harcourt, according to a Government House press statement.
Making the presentation at the Government House Port Harcourt yesterday, Wike said the vehicles were acquired to aid the federal lawmakers in the discharge of their official functions.
The governor said:
“This is from the Government of Rivers State which you are part of. This is to aid you to carry out your official functions in Abuja.
“Defend the interest of the state wherever you are”.
Mr. Wike said the vehicles were for all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of party affiliation.
Responding, Leader of the Rivers Caucus at the House of Representatives, Mrs Betty Apiafi, thanked the Rivers State Governor for providing the support for members of the National Assembly to carry out their duties.
Also speaking, Deputy Leader of the Rivers Caucus of the House of Representatives, Mr Bari Mpigi commended the Rivers State Governor for reaching out to all Rivers people.
By our calculations, the cost of the 16 vehicles should be more than N484.720 million, going by the unit price of $83,665 for a Toyota Land Cruiser in the U.S. The N484.720 million is aside other costs such as customs duties and cost of clearing.
Apart from the fact that the Rivers state lawmakers are entitled to and had received their official vehicles from the National Assembly, Abuja, the purchase of the vehicles is coming at a time the state, like most other states in Nigeria, is facing an economic crisis due to the decline in oil prices.
Meanwhile, the Rivers state government appears to be unable to meet its financial obligations to some of its retired civil servants whose main source of income is supposed to be their pension.
Speaking to Premium Times on Monday, Edward Abibo, the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners in Rivers, said that more than 1,850 retired civil servants in the state had not yet been included in the state pension payroll for over three years now, even when, according to him, they went through screening during the state biometric verification exercise.
He went on to say that for 15 years now, the state government has not done an upward review of the pensioners’ monthly pay.
“An average pensioner collects less than N5,000 monthly from the Rivers State Government.
“Rivers State Government has remained silent over the Paris Club refund which was meant to help them clear the entitlements of pensioners in the state.
“Our governor has refused to make any comment about the money he has received.
“Those on the contributory pension scheme are also suffering because the state government has refused to contribute its counterpart funds totaling about N30 billion to the pension funds administrators”.
Consequently Mr. Abibo said, the pensioners were going through terrible hardship and emotional pains.
Besides the pensioners, Rivers state has also not been able to meet the financial needs of its students who are studying abroad under the state foreign scholarship scheme.
Stranded abroad, the students recently protested in front of Chatham House, London, against Governor Wike who was there to speak on the effort of his administration to develop the oil-rich state.